Photo: Marta Kierkus.
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Liberal budget shows need to update U of O’s approach to education

Last week, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau unveiled the Liberal budget, which seeks to provide $2 billion investment in universities and $800 million to support innovation networks between business and university and more grants for students. This all means more money for students and universities, but not for teaching. With this increase in funding, however, returns an old question: should universities focus on research or on teaching? A better question though, is why are we being forced to choose between teaching and research?

As teaching institutions, universities play a vital role in the community. They ensure that young people entering the workforce have the skills they need to contribute positively to the economy.

However in their current state universities leave something to be desired when it comes to teaching. There are too many profs who either can’t teach well, or don’t remember what it was like to be a student.

As well, not enough is done to keep classrooms and teaching methods up to date with modern tools such as laptops. We could give teaching strategies at the U of O a much-needed upgrade, by encouraging faculties to adopt more courses with interactive online components.

Often lost in universities today are extracurricular activities, such as clubs, volunteering and student politics. Extracurricular activities can allow students to apply the tools they learn in lecture halls to real-life problems, and more should be done to allow students to pursue them.

As research institutions, universities play a vital role in progress. The knowledge gained in universities not only enriches society by giving us a deeper understanding of the world we live in, but is also necessary to keep the economy strong and improve our quality of life.

With so many brilliant minds on campus, it would be a waste to not let universities undertake as much research as possible. We’ve been spending less and less on the research and development aspect of university—a decade ago we were spending around 2 per cent of our GDP on research and development but today we only spend 1.6 per cent.

As such, more should be done to integrate a hands-on research experience with theory in classes. With this type of approach, it’s not necessary to choose between two inherently connected aspects of university.

Not only are research and teaching not mutually exclusive goals, but more should be done to support both. Even if the Liberal budget is a good step towards providing more funding to universities and better opportunities for youth, in the future we can go even further.